Every night, before she goes to sleep, my daughter always counts her blessings. She'll lie in the darkened comfort of her room and say aloud all the things that she is grateful for. I listen over the monitor to her soft, sweet voice whispering over and over again "mama, daddy, baby, happy. mama, daddy, baby, happy...book, duck, ba-ba, moo, ball, meow, yucky, yummy..."
Ok, so maybe I'm projecting a bit. I mean she is only a year and a half, and she's most likely just practicing her words, lulling herself to sleep with the comfort and awe of knowing she can make sounds that actually mean something. But what are those first words if not a representation of the things that matter the most to us? When babies first start speaking, it's normally always some version of "mama" or "daddy," because that is our whole world. As that world grows, so does our vocabulary. We start learning the words for things that interest us the most or things we see everyday. We learn how to communicate the things we need and the things we want. And what are those if not the things we are the most grateful for?
There's been this recent trend I've noticed on social media - gratitude challenges. 100 Days of Happiness, 30 Days of Gratitude, etc, where we post a picture a day, or make a list of the things that make us the most happy. I love this practice not only because locking ourselves into a daily commitment to pause and see the opportunities for gratitude, (both the obvious and the unassuming), bring a lightness and joy to our own lives, but doing it via Facebook and Instagram allows us to share that light and joy with others. When I see friends' postings, it instantly lifts my heart, and inevitably, something I am grateful for in my own life comes to mind, and I smile.
When so much of what we read and see lately in the world brings such a darkness and sense of utter helplessness, it's these little moments of joy that bring me comfort. Because I realize that while I might not be able to fix the world's problems, I can fight the darkness in my own life by consciously basking in the light. And that lightness can come with every breath, if we only open our eyes to see it. Because though we may not get the chance to witness a spectacular sunset every day for 100 days (wouldn't that be amazing?) or have the time to catch up with an old friend over tea every afternoon for a month, we can find these moments in the subtle, perhaps even in the seemingly mundane...a long hot bath, a bowl of fresh cherries, taking a long deep breath.
So start your day with the wise words of Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, and always count your blessings. Because let's face it, we should all be grateful for great books, delicious things and warm milk.
This time of year has always been one of my favorites, because it is unlike any other. It's not the beginning of a new calendar year, or the start of a new season, and yet it's still a time of transition and possibilities. From that very first moment, at 5 or 6 years old, when we left behind all that was comfortable and familiar and walked through those wide double doors into a whole new world, this time of year has stayed with us. It's a time of new opportunities and experiences, of limitless potential and learning.
And the beauty is that we don't have to be a teacher or a student or even a parent to feel the power and harness the possibilities. We can tap into those ingrained memories of first days of school gone by and channel it into a driving force to bring change and growth into our adult lives. The summer heat is (eventually) dissipating and those cooling autumn winds are (again, eventually) coming to gently push us towards our goals. I feel it in my own life, this need to shake things up, to move out of my comfort zone and really go for it. Perhaps what "it" is exactly, is still developing, but I do know that "it" will be grand.
Because "it" can be anything. A quest for something enormous and life changing, like a new, more fulfilling career or an intense home improvement project. Or maybe its something slightly smaller scale, like a clean and ordered house or the recipe for the perfect pasta sauce (both of which I would consider life changing, for the record). It can be something tangible, like learning Spanish, or something more intangible, like cultivating patience. Maybe it's something specific, like "I really need a new car," or something obscure, like "I gotta get my life in order." Whatever "it" is, now is the time. Seize the moment, harness the power of the present and take a step. And then another...
The time to harvest is almost here. What will you be gathering?
yoga teacher, filmmaker, wife, mother and citizen of the world. this is my journey into radical gratitude and living each moment in pure joy.